Clark County rancher Cliven Bundy has put the Bunker in Bunkerville. As in Archie Bunker.
That might be a bit harsh — on Carroll O’Connor’s racist character from TV’s “All in the Family.” Mr. Bundy wasn’t funny last week when, in front of a New York Times reporter, he provided a moronic monologue on blacks in America, suggesting they would be better off if they were returned to slavery.
Yes, he said that.
And so, just as the country was starting to learn about the important federal land issues at the heart of Mr. Bundy’s decades-long dispute with the Bureau of Land Management, just as he was attracting broader support for the next round of fights with Washington over local land use and control, Mr. Bundy made it impossible for anyone with credibility to be sympathetic to his cause, much less advocate on his behalf.
Mr. Bundy’s standoff with the BLM over cattle grazing turned him into a conservative celebrity and made tiny Bunkerville a nationally recognized dateline this month. Now his remarks on race have embarrassed the entire state.
The comments, made Saturday, were printed in Thursday’s edition of the Times, sending his political enemies on attack and most of his allies scrambling for cover.
“‘I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,’ he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, ‘and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.
“‘And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?’ he asked. ‘They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom,’” the Times reported.
To insinuate that only blacks are on welfare is incredibly offensive and hurtful. But to suggest that blacks enjoyed more freedom and better lives as slaves is indescribably stupid. At a Thursday news conference, Mr. Bundy repeated his foolishness, saying the members of “the Negro community” who live in Las Vegas Valley public housing look like slaves.
Set aside whether Mr. Bundy’s nonpayment of some $1 million in grazing fees makes him a welfare queen — his dispute is far more complicated than that. But it’s outrageous for Mr. Bundy to claim he has been oppressed and had his rights trampled and, at the same time, essentially dismiss the worst oppression and suppression of human rights ever carried out in this country.
In case no one ever told Mr. Bundy, slavery very nearly destroyed the country he claims to love.
So now begins the opportunist campaign to tar anyone who expressed support for Mr. Bundy, or continues to support his fight against the federal government, as a racist by association. Please. The battle against Washington’s overreach, crushing regulation and iron-fisted control of most of the West is much bigger than Mr. Bundy. But he’ll only marginalize the cause if he insists on delivering more social commentary.
Even fools have rights. Parts of Mr. Bundy’s dispute with the federal government still have great merit.
His ideas on slavery and black America don’t.